BEIJING, China - China's Zhang Shuai once again shined on home soil at the China Open on Thursday, as she knocked out Wimbledon champion Angelique Kerber to reach the quarterfinals, 6-1, 2-6, 6-0.
The first match between the two players in six years went the way of the Chinese No.2 over a back-and-forth 90 minutes on National Tennis Stadium, in which she broke serve five times and hit 22 winners.
"Being able to compete in the China Open, being in the center court, this is something I'm really proud of in my career," Zhang said after the match.
"I think I can defeat a former No. 1, a Grand Slam champion, this is something I am proud of for the rest of my life. I'm really happy when I was facing a tough player, a top player, I was able to keep calm, calmer than before. I was able to win the match."
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Zhang cruised to the first three and last three games of the opening set as she won a trio to love, and also captured the last eight points of the opener against the Wimbledon champion.
However, the German who flipped the script in the second set, and it was the World No.3 who won the first three games and never dropped serve to send the match to a decider.
"I think in the second set, at the beginning of the second set, I had opportunities. In the first game, I didn't do well in one or two points. In the fourth game, I had a break point," Zhang assessed.
"When I was down 0-3, that was quite tricky, quite difficult to turn it around. I made several double faults in the second set. Those were some of the mistakes I shouldn't have made while I was competing former World No. 1.
"When you make some mistakes, some errors, you will lose the whole set, even the match. I'm really happy I was able to play my game in the third set."
Kerber accumulated 36 unforced errors over the course of the match, and despite breaking twice, was largely unable to make inroads on the Chinesewoman's serve.
Zhang landed 64 percent of her first serves in the win, and won 70 percent points played on her first delivery and 60 percent of the points on her second.
"Talking about the match today, I do not see big ups and downs," Zhang added. "Sometimes when you see 6-1, 6-2, but in many games we were fighting with long rallies for just one point."
"I was not an easy match for me. I was not feeling the best at the beginning of the match, but then I was playing better and better. At the end she played a good third set. She took her chances and played a really solid match," Kerber said in defeat.
"I think I tried what I could, but she had always the answer, especially in the third set."
After one victory against a Grand Slam champion, another awaits for the Chinese No.2: Zhang will next face her good friend, US Open champion Naomi Osaka in the last eight, after the Japanese No.1 defeated No.10 seed Julia Goerges with the loss of just three games.
"Today Kerber was the Wimbledon champion, and tomorrow it will be a US Open champion. My goal is to play the best I can," Zhang said.
"I think Naomi is a really good server, very aggressive, and I hope there will be something I can learn from her.
"We each have good hope for each other, respect for each other. When you are playing a friend on court, it is actually very tricky and tough because eventually there's only one winner."